The wife stood in line for three hours today to get the baby a pug vax. We hadn't planned on it taking that long so she brought the Girl with her. The line stretched around the block at a local middle school. I sympathize with my wife and felt badly that she was stuck with the girls alone.
As you can imagine, three hours leaves plenty of time to chat with your fellow vax waiters. At one point a woman was walking down the line and my wife asked how far the line went back. The woman answered my wife and then stuck around a while as she and my wife shared their gripes about the whole process. During a small lull in their conversation the Girl piped in, talking about one thing or another. The woman listened to the Girl intently and then asked my wife discretely, "Is she "special needs?" She didn't say it rudely or obnoxiously, just understandingly. My wife said yes and explained the Girl's circumstances.
When my wife told me this story I found myself asking for details: what had the Girl been saying? how did she speak? did the woman ask knowingly or curiously? I needed to know what this stranger had used to glean her perception of my daughter.
We discuss the Girl's issues in our home regularly, hardly a day goes by without a conversation about it. We have talked to her therapists and doctors about it over and over. We are fully aware of the extent of her problems. We are not in denial. However, when my daughter's disability is obvious to a total stranger during a brief meeting, well, that is something akin to a punch in the gut. It is no longer our problem - mine and my wife's - to worry over, plan for, contend with. It is now my daughter's problem, and no matter what we do the world will notice it more and more. And the world has never been known for its kindness.
I told my wife I was glad it was her that spoke with the woman. It it were me I think I would have started crying.
An addendum: My wife told me that as they waited their three hours in line today many of the kids ran and played on the large grassy knoll next to the line. Two girls, sisters, joined Flyn in a game. As Flyn began telling them a story of some kind the younger of the two girls said, "What? I can't understand you." Her sister stepped in and informed her younger sibling, matter of factly, "It's ok. She still talks baby."
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